Breaking through the Darkness
Perhaps you didn’t know this about your pastor, but I hate winter. I don’t really mind the cold, and I kind of like the snow. It’s the darkness of winter that gets me down. This isn’t uncommon, though. Most people are affected by darkness to one degree or another. Between one and ten percent of Americans become so depressed during the dark winter months that they are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder. As obvious as this may sound, a major component of the treatment of S.A.D. is increased exposure to light. I have no doubt that the depressing power of darkness is one reason why Christmas lights are such a popular part of our holiday celebration. Hanging Christmas lights on houses and trees is one way to bring a little joy into the dark winter months.
We Christians are also aware that darkness is representative of a spiritual reality. Darkness is symbolic of sin, evil, emptiness, and distance from God. Darkness is the place where the devil prowls and where temptation lingers. Spiritual darkness is the sort of darkness that no amount of Christmas lights on houses or trees can destroy. There is, however, one Christmas Light that does have the power to scatter the darkness of sin and evil and to illumine us with the love of God. That Light is of course Jesus Christ. Consider what Holy Scripture has to say about Jesus our Christmas Light:
- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?- Psalm 27:1
- The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. -Psalm 118:27
- Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.- Psalm 119:105
- The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.- Matthew 4:16
- The sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. -Luke 1:79
- My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. - Luke 2:30-32
- In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:4-5
- Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12
- For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.- 2 Corinthians 4:6
- This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.- 1 John 1:5
- And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. -Revelation 21:23-24
Whatever power physical darkness may have over our mood and health, Scripture is clear that the spiritual darkness of sin, death, and the devil has no power over us because of Christ whose love, forgiveness, and life enlightens all who believe in him.
As we seek to chase away physical darkness this winter with our Christmas lights, let’s also chase away spiritual darkness with our Christmas Light. It was once a tradition among Christians to chase away both kinds of darkness at the same time by singing a hymn as they lit their lamps in the evening. The hymn is called Phos Hilaron, or Hymn of Light, and was written some time before the 4thcentury. The hymn goes like this:
Joyous light of glory: of the immortal Father;
heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ.
We have come to the setting of the sun,
and we look to the evening light.
We sing to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever.
O Son of God, O Giver of life:
the universe proclaims Your glory.
As you put up Christmas lights on your house and tree this year, join the Church in singing praise to (or at least meditating on) Jesus our Christmas Light who broke through the darkness of sin and death to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, die on the cross, rise from the grave, and who will return to bring us all into the eternal light and joy of our Triune God’s holy presence.
God bless you all during this Advent and Christmas season.